Istanbul’s Grand Bazaar

Although not for everyone, for me a must do experience in Istanbul is a visit to the awe inspiring Grand Bazaar. Even if you do not like shopping the experience is spectacular with colour everywhere you look.


It is best to keep your wits about you, as I said, it’s not for everyone. Like a lot of busy places there are swindlers and thieves about. True, it is hectic with pick pockets around, and recommend you keep your wits about you as you barter for a bargain or all the fast talk could lead to strife.

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The extravagant covered market includes a maze of dazzling shops displaying rugs, jewellery, handmade pottery, clothing, spices and more.

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Overall it is amazing just wandering through the alleys, soaking up the aroma from the spices, absorbed in the haggling. I loved watching the sellers interacting and striking up a deal, often sealing the deal with apple tea.

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This place is massive and it is easy to get lost if you don’t keep the direction of one of the exits in mind.  There are hundreds of different stores. Shops and cafes selling jewellery, coloured glass lanterns, bright colourful ceramics and shop after shop of shiny baubles and trinkets.

Take the time to absorb the fragrance of spices like apple tea, orange tea, jasmine tea and more. The aromas from the spice stalls will tease your nostrils.

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The Bazaar is bustling with activity with hordes of people and the strong scent of Turkish coffee.  The massive market has marble drink fountains, impressive tilework and pushy salesmen. The lamp shops are colourful and bright and many of the jewellery shops sell Nazar bonuk or the evil eye charms, said to ward off evil spirits.

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On sale are silk scarves, saffron spice, Baklava, Turkish tea, Turkish tea sets with tiny matching spoons and of course mandatory Turkish delight which will be wrapped up tight to stay fresh until you return home.

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We didn’t need to shop, we just wanted the experience of wandering, enjoying the sights, sounds and smells of this colourful maze, but couldn’t resist just one evil eye charm as our Turkish souvenir.

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We were in Istanbul as part of our Grand Mediterranean cruise. Have you been to the Grand Bazaar? Did you make it out without a purchase?

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55 Responses

  1. I loved the Grand Bazaar and although it is developed to be tourist-friendly (covered walkway and airconditioning), the atmosphere is not lost.

  2. Steve Tierney says:

    We were there on a rainy day in June- first time for my kids. We all had a great time.

    • Lyn says:

      I am so glad to hear you and your children has a great time at the Grand Bazaar Steve and thank you for stopping by and leaving a comment.

  3. Liz says:

    Wow! What an experience! I’m not much of a shopper but I would definitely like to visit when I have the chance, just to enjoy the ambiance and the experiences. Instanbul seems to be a really lovely and dynamic city. Thanks for sharing!
    Liz recently posted…Day Trip from Paris: Fondation Claude Monet in GivernyMy Profile

  4. Connie Reed says:

    I would love to browse the Grand Bazaar (taking security precautions, of course). I would have to buy some of the tea. That’s my latest thing, making iced tea from different herbal tea blends.
    Connie Reed recently posted…New at Illinois State Fair: Ag TourMy Profile

  5. Holly says:

    I haven’t been but I’d love to. It’s great fun wandering through marketplaces & buying local wares.
    Holly recently posted…Venice: A Journey in PicturesMy Profile

  6. Sarah says:

    Looks amazing! Great pictures!
    Sarah recently posted…Brunchin’ in Las VegasMy Profile

  7. I love the smells and sounds and colour and banter of Middle Eastern markets. Sadly, I haven’t yet made it to Istanbul’s famous bazaar but I can’t wait to be immersed in it one day.
    Sam – Journo and the Joker recently posted…Postcard Greetings – Siem Reap’s countrysideMy Profile

  8. Bryna says:

    I’ve never been to the Grand Bazaar, but would love to from your photos. I love exploring markets in other countries. Those lanterns and spices in your photos are so colourful – I would have found it hard not to make some purchases to bring home!
    Bryna recently posted…Adventures at Myra CanyonMy Profile

    • Lyn says:

      I think when we go back we’ll look at options to get some send home for us. Markets are a great place to spend time a new city and Grand Bazaar is no exception.

  9. I feel bad because I’ve been to Turkey so many times (my step-dad is Turkish) but still haven’t been to Instanbul! I’d go crazy at this bazaar, just love looking at all the little things!
    Dannielle Lily recently posted…Why you should go to Falkirk if you visit ScotlandMy Profile

  10. Lolo says:

    Ooh I would loooove to check out a Bazaar one day! While in Mostar, Bosnia that was the closest I have come to checking one out! I even bought a lamp! They’re so adorable!
    Lolo recently posted…The Pearl of the Adriatic: Dubrovnik, CroatiaMy Profile

    • Lyn says:

      The lamps are really gorgeous. I have not been to Bosnia but hope to one day and hope you get to Istanbul, it really is a fascinating place.

  11. We went and had a wonderful time. It is quite the experience. We did buy a few trinkets. I find all the hustle and bustle fun – people calling out from everywhere. No place like it!

  12. budget jan says:

    We have been to the Grand Bazaar but didn’t buy anything – well I did purchase some dates from the Spice Market. They varied in price dramatically so I chose some mid-priced ones. They were expensive by Australian standards so I very likely overpaid, but they were exceptional tasting dates – the best I’ve ever tasted.
    budget jan recently posted…Fall in Love with Australia at Notch PointMy Profile

    • Lyn says:

      Oh yum, I’m sure the dates would have been delicious and if they were then for price is irrelevant. Thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment Jan.

  13. Thank you for linking up on Travel Tuesday! I would love to go to this Grand Bazaar. But it seems like a place I would not be able to walk out without buying something… Not because I’m a shopaholic, but because of aggressive shop owners! When I visited Ephesus on a cruise trip, I remembered browsing through souvenir shops around the port and the stall owners were so persistent.
    Bumble Bee Mum recently posted…What Singapore Means To MeMy Profile

    • Lyn says:

      We didn’t have any problems with the shop owners, I think the thing is not to make eye contact unless you want to start a deal and then you need to be prepared to buy or be hassled. We missed Ephesus on our cruise, but would love to get there one day.

  14. Mabel Kwong says:

    What a colourful bazaar. So many people, so many stalls, and so many things on display. It is really good of you to restrict yourself to one souvenir. I’m such each souvenir and item on sale has a story behind it. Those cups look so delicate in the last photo. Very pretty 🙂
    Mabel Kwong recently posted…What Are Some of Australia’s Favourite Meats? And Why We Eat MeatMy Profile

    • Lyn says:

      It was very colourful and lively Mabel. I’m sure it was only lack of time and not willpower that allowed me to leave without an armful of shopping. I would have loved to get a few of the teasets to bring home.

  15. I am soooo keen to go here. I know you didn’t shop much but did you notice what the prices were like?
    Thanks for joining in #wednesdaywanderlust and sorry for the slow visit
    Malinda @mybrownpaperpackages recently posted…Friday Favourite: Pinch Me BeautifulMy Profile

    • Lyn says:

      Malinda very few things have marked prices, spices had prices, but most things it’s make an offer and start haggling. Hence I am not really sure if the prices are reasonable or not. I hope you get there one day.

  16. Looks amazing – on my list, but will have to make sure I go with a half empty back so I can fill with goodies to come back with!
    Sarah Lambert recently posted…Being vegetarian in IndiaMy Profile

    • Lyn says:

      We have been really good with restricting ourselves in buying lots of souvenirs. We usually buy something small along the way, but not necessarily from each city we visit. Thanks for linking up with us Sarah and also for leaving a comment.

  17. Vlad says:

    I’ve been to the Grand Bazaar this year, but I can’t say I’d go again if I visited Istanbul, it felt a bit too intimidating. I don’t really like to haggle, but I got a bunch of spices and tea, as well as a messenger bag that wasn’t exactly what I was looking for, but it was cute and cheap, haha.
    Vlad recently posted…A Journey Through Northern EuropeMy Profile

    • Lyn says:

      Vlad I feel it would be easy to be persuaded into a purchase not quite what you are looking for, but we still had a good time without getting into the haggling and didn’t feel intimidated. I wish we had’ve got spices and teas but was worried we might not be able to get them back into Australia as we have very tight restrictions.

  18. Warning: you can get ‘lost’ in there just wandering around. But seriously: it’s not dangerous except that you might find something you really want to buy…
    I find it such an amazing place with friendly people. And I never had the feeling that I was being hassled by vendors.
    Juergen | dare2go recently posted…What to see in one week in & around SantiagoMy Profile

    • Lyn says:

      Juergen I have to say I never felt threatened or hassled either, but I know of some who have. It is such a big place with so many people that it is so easy to get lost.

  19. Erica says:

    This looks like a market I would love. In fact, I’d probably spend every dime in my travel budget there! Love this post!
    Erica recently posted…Packing: Things you should leave behind…My Profile

    • Lyn says:

      Thanks Erica, this place is huge and has so many different things to look at to while away your time there. I don’t doubt you could spend all your money there, but it was so much fun not buying and just being.

  20. Karen says:

    I visited the Grand Bazaar many years ago. I’d love to go back. I bought a decorative box for jewelry while there. I remembering being very impressed by how easily the people haggled in multiple languages and currencies. Thanks for the trip down memory lane!
    Karen recently posted…Batu CavesMy Profile

    • Lyn says:

      Karen how lovely to have a keepsake from your visit to the Grand Bazaar. You are right, it is a very impressive place, for so many reasons.

  21. Lauren says:

    I might find it difficult to haggle people down on prices and such, but I’d love to buy some spices and tea! It looks amazing. I’d also just like to walk around and take it all in!
    Lauren recently posted…Scenic Caves Eco Adventure Tour with LifeExperiencesMy Profile

  22. We spend a lot of time when we went to Turkey shopping at the Grand Bazaar. I ended up buying a few rugs, and some of the Turkish lights which are hanging in my master bathroom. I wish I would of bought a few more but it was tricky bringing them back on the plane.
    Carmen | Carmen’s Luxury Travel recently posted…Ocean2000 – Dining on the Ocean in Fort LauderdaleMy Profile

    • Lyn says:

      Those lights were so colourful, I really would have liked to have bought some home too. Thank you for linking up and leaving a comment Carmen.

  23. John says:

    Hi Lyn! I have been to Turkey but not yet Istanbul. I have heard so much about the buzz of activity at the bazaar. A few people I know have bought rugs to have shipped back to the U.S. What a souvenir you can get from this place.

  24. Natalie says:

    I can only imagine how wonderful the smell would have been- the spices, the teas!
    Natalie recently posted…Guide To Family Friendly Beaches In CroatiaMy Profile

  25. We loved the Grand Bazaar too. All of the smells from the spice area was just brilliant. It was colourful, noisy and everything I liked. However, I hated seeing all of the gun shops outside of it. We didn’t shop either, just looked and listened and took it all in.
    Paula McInerney recently posted…25 Reasons You Should Fall In Love With SydneyMy Profile

    • Lyn says:

      We took it all in too, from the colourful and chaotic to the mix of exhaustion and intrigue. Words and photos can’t replace the vibe of the place. Thanks for your comment Paula.

  26. Lydia C. Lee says:

    That looks so great – like something from a movie (something from another country…ha ha!)
    Lydia C. Lee recently posted…Sisterhood of the World Travelling BloggersMy Profile

  27. Anda says:

    I loved the Grand Bazaar too, Lyn. It’s such a colorful and interesting place to visit. It’s not the shopping itself that is attractive there (although that may be good too), it’s rather the atmosphere of the place.
    Anda recently posted…The Weekly Postcard: Diavolezza, the Mountain of Eternal IceMy Profile

    • Lyn says:

      Anda, all those spices are a feast for the eyes (and nose) and the shopping is spectacular with all the colours from the pottery and lanterns.

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